There are five things great leaders should always do and one really important thing they should absolutely never do, according to Alan Schnur, founder of The Schnur Group, at Station Summit 2018 in Las Vegas.
Schnur has been studying leadership for years, looking at what works and what doesn’t, and the keys to leading a team to success might surprise you.
There are a few things great leaders such as Apple’s Steve Jobs or the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr always do when they gearing up for a major life-changing, business-altering launch.
First, they create a dream.
Second, they find talent.
And third, they build and sustain that dream by encouraging and developing that talent.
Sounds simple, right?
“It should be, but what usually holds people back is the first one, and the second one and the third one,” said Schnur, with his tongue only partially in his cheek.
But let’s say you’ve made it through these first three steps. You’ve got a dream, you’ve found a team, you’ve inspired them and you are ready to go. What’s next?
1) Keep on dreaming and keep that dream big.
“It ought to be a dream, something that’s so grand that you go to work every day to figure out how to get it done,” said Schnur. “After that, you find talent – people who are passionate about the same dream and have a way to contribute to it.”
2) Live loud and in color.
“It’s about passion. Enthusiasm works. Passion works. Find a passion,” said Schnur. “It’s a lifestyle, not a job. If it’s a cool job, if you are jazzed about it, you are going to be thinking about it a lot.”
You also will likely be working a lot, but if you love it, that will be okay.
“Come first, leave last,” said Schnur. “Leaders put in a lot of hours. That’s what commitment looks like for a lot of people.”
That said, don’t always – or even mostly – be the one talking. “Seek creative solutions and let other people build on your ideas,” he said.
3) Dance both parts.
Great dancers make their partner look good and two brilliant dancers create art.
“Lead when necessary, otherwise follow,” said Schnur. “Give other people the opportunity to take the lead whenever possible. That builds talent and gets you there faster. In improv comedy, your job is to make the other person look good. That’s a good set of skills for all of us to have.
“I’ve worked with plenty of people who believe it’s their job to lead and I tell them they are missing the point completely.”
4) Be a first responder.
“If you see something going wrong, jump in. It’s not to show anybody up or to point out someone else’s failure but to help someone as soon as you realize that they need help. Be the first one on the scene and bring other people with you. Have everyone’s back, allowing no one to fail.”
And 5) From time to time, spill your coffee.
A team of researchers did a study in which they presented people with four different audio scenarios featuring four people. In the first scenario, a person answered a set of questions, getting nearly all of them right. In the second, a person also answered most of the questions correctly but toward the end, he spilled his coffee and the listeners could hear his cup clattering the floor. In the third, a person stuttered and stammered and got most of the answers wrong. And in the fourth, a person stuttered, stammered, got most of the answers wrong, AND spilled his coffee.
Guess which person listeners liked the most?
It wasn’t Mr. Perfect number-one; it was almost-perfect number two.
What this shows is that people respond to a little humility in their leaders.
“Mostly, it’s about making mistakes. Everybody makes them,” said Schnur. “If you are considered nearly perfect, if you are respected, if people think you do good work, put in good hours and are reflective of the values of the organization, from time to time making a mistake isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s actually a good thing. It helps you build a team and keep a team together.”
And the one thing leaders should never, ever do is “make it all about themselves,” Schnur said.
“Never make it look like it’s about you – that’s death politically and culturally at work. People will stand there for a dream. It should never be about you—it’s about the dream, the company, what we’re trying to get done.”
In the end, the secret of being a great leader is relatively simple, said Schnur: “He who inspires, teaches and helps, changes a person and changes the world. It’s all about how you behave at work and how you behave in life.”